Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Business groups call for 'timely consideration' of ABS-CBN franchise bills

Four business organizations on Tuesday issued a joint statements in support of getting the process to renew ABS-CBN's congressional franchise started.

Whether the media network’s operations will continue after the franchise expires after March 30 is still in question, with just a little over a month left for Congress to pass the required legislation. The Institute of Corporate Directors, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines called on lawmakers to act fairly on bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise.

“We, the undersigned business organizations, express our strong support for a balanced, fair and timely consideration of the bills filed by several lawmakers on the renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation's broadcasting franchise,” the statement read. “We fervently urge Congress to judiciously address any issues raised against the company while taking serious account of the bedrock issues of media freedom and free enterprise, which allow businesses to flourish for the overall welfare of our economy and our people.”

Broadcast companies, including radio and television networks, in the Philippines are required to seek a congressional franchise from Congress under Republic Act 3846. A legislative franchise bill needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before it is transmitted to the Senate. The version of the bill approved by both chambers would then still need the president’s approval.

Rep. Tonypet Albano (Isabela), House legislative franchises committee vice chairman, said ABS-CBN would not be automatically closed down even if its franchise is not renewed yet.

“May I remind the public that even if the ABS-CBN franchise expires on March 30, it doesn’t mean that ABS-CBN will close completely because the rule of thumb… is that while 18th Congress is still ongoing they can continue its services (pending renewal of application),” the lawmaker said. RELATED: ABS-CBN may operate until 2022 — lawmaker

This interpretation of the franchise’s expiration has also been shared by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

However, Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, said lawmakers should guarantee that ABS-CBN can operate beyond the term of its franchise. “Even if they say that it can be extended until 2022, perhaps it’s better to put it in writing or have Congress verbalize: ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ because that’s not written in the law,” Poe said in a mix of English and Filipino. RELATED: Poe: Prove ABS-CBN can operate beyond franchise term

The Senate has announced that it will conduct a hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise and is in the process of securing a venue.

Poe said the upper chamber can hear the proposal to extend the said franchise even if the House has not yet submitted their approved version of the franchise bill. Moreover, the lower chamber has yet to set a hearing on more than 10 bills seeking to renew the franchise.
SOURCE: www.philstar.com